Pesticide usage report: Arable crops 2014

Date published: 01 October 2015

Pesticide usage report: Arable crops 2014



This is the thirteenth survey of pesticide usage practices on arable crops in Northern Ireland, providing comparative data to that obtained in the previous surveys in 1990, (Jess et al., 1992), 1992 (Jess et al., 1995), 1994 (Jess et al., 1997), 1996 (Jess et al., 2000), 1998 (Jess et al., 2002), 2000 (Withers et al., 2004), 2002 (Withers et al., 2004), 2004 (Withers et al., 2006) 2006 (Withers et al., 2007), 2008 (Withers et al.,2009) 2010 (Withers et al.,2011) and 2012 (Withers et al.,2013).

Information on all aspects of pesticide usage was collected from 172 holdings throughout Northern Ireland, representing 20% of the total area of arable crops grown. Quantitative data has been adjusted to provide estimates of total pesticide usage.

The total area of arable crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2014 was 38,843 hectares. This is the lowest cropping area recorded since records began in 1990. This represented a decrease of 7% compared to that recorded in 2012 and a 37% reduction compared to that recorded in the first pesticide usage survey of the arable sector, in 1990. Approximately 44% of the arable cropping area in 2014 was in County Down, 26% in County Londonderry, 15% in County Antrim, 8% in County Armagh and 7% in County Tyrone. This distribution is similar to that recorded in 2006 - 2012. There was no significant area of arable cropping in County Fermanagh.

A total of 321 products (including 7 adjuvants), comprising 135 active substances were recorded in use on field crops in the survey.

During the period 2012 to 2014, applications of all pesticide groups decreased, with the area of arable crops treated with pesticides decreasing by 11%, to 335,215 spray hectares. This was a similar level to that recorded in 2010. Fungicide applications decreased by 11%, with chlorothalonil, either applied as a single active substance or in combination, the most frequently applied to cereal crops, especially spring barley and winter wheat. Herbicides and desiccant applications decreased by 7%. Glyphosate was the most frequently applied, accounting for 23% of herbicide and desiccant applications. Insecticide applications decreased by 21% when compared with 2012 and the weight applied increased by 28%. This was due to increased applications of the feeding blocker, flonicamid, exclusively to seed and maincrop potatoes to control aphids. Pyrethroids were the most frequently applied insecticides representing 87% of all insecticide applications. Esfenvalerate was the most frequently applied pyrethroid, primarily to spring and winter barley along with winter wheat crops, to control aphids. Growth regulator applications decreased by 1% when compared to 2012. The principal growth regulator used in 2014 was chlormequat, which is consistent with previous surveys conducted in 1998 to 2012. In 2014, growth regulators were applied primarily to winter barley, spring wheat, winter wheat and, most frequently, to spring barley. Molluscicide applications decreased by 62% when compared with 2012. All molluscicide applications were to control slugs. The total weight of pesticides applied to arable crops in 2014 decreased to 118 tonnes of active substances, representing a 10% reduction compared with 2012 and 13 %, 30% and 50% reduction when compared with 2010, 2008 and 2006, respectively. Seed treatment applications decreased by 16% and the weight applie by 20%. In keeping with 2004 and 2006 data, the single active substance fludioxonil was the most commonly applied cereal seed treatment in 2014. This contrasted with 2008 and 2010 where the formulation prochloraz/triticonazole was the most commonly applied to these crops. The formulation imazalil/pencycuron was the most commonly applied seed treatment on potatoes.

During 2014, regional pesticide usage was related to the area of arable crops grown in each county. Pesticides were applied to 99% of the total area of arable crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2010 with a range of 1 to 10 applications per crop.

Fungicides were applied to 42% of the pesticide-treated area, accounting for 45% of the total weight of pesticides used. Herbicides and desiccants were applied to 32% of the pesticide-treated area, representing 39% of the total weight of pesticides used. Insecticides accounted for 7% of the pesticide-treated area of arable crops, representing 2% of the weight of pesticides used.  Molluscicide treatments represented less than 1% of both area of application and weight of pesticides applied. Growth regulator usage accounted for 9% of the pesticide-treated area and 12% of the weight of active substances applied. Seed treatments were applied to 10% of the area of arable crops grown in 2014, representing 2% of the weight of active substances applied.

Potato crops comprised 10% of the area of arable crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2012, accounting for 16% of the total pesticide-treated area. However, the weight of pesticides applied to potato crops represented 26% of the total weight of pesticides used on all arable crops. The total area of potatoes grown comprised 96% maincrop/seed and 4% early potato crops. Potato crops accounted for 27% of the area of arable crops treated with fungicides and received 42% of the total weight of fungicides applied. Furthermore, applications of herbicides and desiccants to potato crops represented 13% of the area treated and 17% of the weight applied of this pesticide group. The most commonly recorded fungicide applied to potato crops was fluazinam. Fluazinam was used on 29% of the fungicide-treated area and accounted for 9% of the weight of fungicide active substances applied. It was used primarily in maincrop potatoes to control blight (Phytophthora infestans) and for general disease control.

This was the ninth survey in which the cultivation of pea and bean crops was recorded with 54 hectares being grown. This is a five fold increase when compared with 2012.

In addition to information concerning field applications of pesticides to crops, data relating to post-harvest/storage treatments applied to farm-stored potatoes were collected. It was estimated that 41,336 tonnes of potatoes were stored on-farm, following the 2014 growing season. This represented a 40% decrease compared with 2012. No early potatoes were recorded as stored. County Down and County Londonderry accounted for 38% and 32% of all potatoes stored, respectively. No stored potatoes received a pesticide treatment. Approximately 58% of all potatoes in 2014 were stored in ‘barn stores’ and 25% in ‘refrigerated’ buildings.  Overall, 92% of potatoes were stored on-farm in boxes, while 8% were stored in bulk. A minimal quantity of potatoes were stored on trays.

For further information on this work please contact: Pesticide usage monitoring group